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Redhead Redux

I was so relieved when Biden was elected, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he appointed his new Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. Finally, someone intelligent, who could untangle a president’s bumblings. She seemed to be having fun up there, dueling with the media en masse. Here was someone who showed up, and didn’t antagonize the press room. Plus, she’s a redhead at that!

Being born with red hair can be a comfort or a curse. When I was little, I always wanted black hair. I even prayed for my hair color to change so that I wouldn’t feel so different, so that I wouldn’t stand out. The Flapper once told me she used to rub lemons all over her face to get rid of her freckles; that wasn’t much help. But eventually, I learned to love my strawberry locks.

I was a chameleon, my head of hair turning more of a copper red in the winter months, and almost platinum blonde in the summer. Even as I grew older, I felt like my white streaks were highlights and not grey. So I was rooting for Ms Psaki, as if she were a part of my tribe. But Jen, you did us a disservice this week. Kickboxing?

In an interview on The View, she commiserated with Democrats’ despair over the Senate not passing the biggest voting rights bill in a generation by telling us:

“My advice to everyone out there who’s frustrated, sad, angry, pissed off: feel those emotions, go to a kickboxing class, have a margarita, do whatever you need to do this weekend and then wake up on Monday morning, we gotta keep fighting.”

https://www.newsweek.com/psaki-mocked-telling-those-upset-voting-rights-have-margarita-keep-fighting-1671786

Unfortunately, that just created a firestorm on Twitter. People were saying she was out of touch, that they can’t afford a kickboxing class that costs more than therapy. It even costs more than my drag queen haircut! Her advice for us to keep fighting, while the senators do nothing, was indelicate at best.

Bob and I did our Zoom Pilates class yesterday and took a power walk around the neighborhood. Luckily, Bob had some amazing football games to watch too, since we didn’t have the ingredients for a margarita. Our anger at our dysfunctional government only intensified…

This Monday morning I’ve only heard about Russia and Ukraine, while Tennessee is one of the top FIVE states in the country for Covid per capita. Woop WOO! Voting rights is old news. The very foundation of our democracy continues to be fodder for Mr T’s antics. His judges and legislators want to bend and contort the rule of law to fit their antiquated racist ideology.

So why would we consider defending democracy in Eastern Europe when we can barely defend our own house? When we’ve learned how close we came to the military seizing our voting machines for Mr T? Why are Republicans so afraid of letting every American vote?

And never mess with a redhead. Especially not one in need of some tequila, or gorilla glue.

Rules and Rights

We all know that person. The one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him; the unvaccinated star tennis player who was finally evicted from Australia ; the NFL player who brazenly lied about his vaccination status.

“How is lying – let’s call what Rodgers did for what it is – about being vaccinated against a disease that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide, almost 750,000 in the United States alone, representing the team the right way? How is exposing friends and teammates to COVID, as he might have done over the weekend, showing care for the well-being of those around him?”

https://sports.yahoo.com/opinion-aaron-rodgers-covid-lied-210942065.html

They must believe their wealth and fame would shield them from any major catastrophe. They pay the thousands of dollars in fines, sit one or two games out, and then get right back into the game clutching their multiple million dollar contracts.

But here’s the thing – in the stratosphere of elite sports, it’s still a man’s world. Take tennis for instance. After nearly dying while giving birth, Serena Williams chose to wear a black catsuit at the French Open in 2018. With her history of blood clots, she was not making a fashion statement. Still, her outfit caused quite a stir among the older, whiter French Tennis Federation rule-makers. They chose to BAN Le Catsuit!

To be fair, making a choice not to wear a frilly, white tennis skirt cannot be compared to risking the lives of your teammates and their families by lying about your vaccination status.

Which is why the sheer patriarchal audacity of the SCOTUS last week is so infuriating. Did you know why Justice Sotomayor has had to WFH (work from home) lately? Well, it turns out she has diabetes, a known risk factor for Covid, and Justice Gorsuch has chosen NOT to wear a mask during arguments. He is the only unmasked judge on the Supreme Court. It seems that Sotomayor had told Justice Roberts, the big kahuna, that since the Omicron variant hit, she was “… not comfortable sitting next to members who are not masked.”

My immediate reaction was why isn’t Gursuch working remotely?

Bob said, they should all be working remotely! Strangely enough, the highest court does not currently have any Covid rules in place, which may explain their latest ruling about workplace hazards and vaccination requirements. Still, I wonder, if Justice Sotomayor had been a man, let’s say a conservative man, would Roberts ask HIM to work remotely?

This singular display, of male over female, of a conservative leaning court over the liberal, is a metaphor for our time. The Right wants the freedom to do as they please – to buy as many guns as they want and strap them on without a permit, without a thought of the young lives lost to suicide and accidents partially because an unlocked gun was within reach at a vulnerable time. They would like to tell women what to do with our bodies. They’ve been passing laws at state levels for years making it harder and harder for a woman to access an abortion provider. Even though Roe is established law.

Their latest attack on voting rights is the last straw. I get that we have two recalcitrant Democratic senators. But we couldn’t find two Republicans?

Like privileged, petulant teenagers, the GOP only follows the rules if they made them. Here are some countries we are trying to emulate, places in the world where it is also difficult to vote: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria, Papa New Guinea, and Zanzibar. Our country still operates a piecemeal, state by state approach to this fundamental right.

“In the United States, voting laws vary drastically from state to state. While Minnesota, for example, has same-day voter registration and no picture ID laws, other states, like Tennessee, require voters to register a month ahead of time and present a picture ID when they get to the polls.”

https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/countries-easier-vote-united-states/story?id=17625616

Would you believe Estonia has instituted Online Voting, and absolutely every citizen in this Baltic country has the right to vote remotely! Since we also rank 138 out of 172 countries in voter turnout, one would think we’d try to make the right to vote easier. What does it say about a party that subverts and bends the rules to strip us of of our basic human rights? What does it say about an athlete, or a Supreme Court Justice?

Can 2022 have a do over?

Color or Colour?

Netflix has my number. They know that I like film noir, thrillers of the John Grisham type – not too much violence with a psychological twist. A good old-fashioned intellectual mystery like Murder on the Orient Express is my jam. And since reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no place I like my intrigue better than a snowy Scandinavian country.

Enter The Girl From Oslo. I had finished with Succession, and had about all I could handle with Emily in Paris. We were between snow storms in Nashville, the pantry and fridge were full to bursting. The electrician was still working at the new/old house and Bob wasn’t feeling so good. I had the remote all to myself, when Netflix suggested https://www.netflix.com/title/81147725

It was easy enough to watch, short episodes filmed in Israel, Gaza and Norway. A young Norwegian girl is kidnapped by ISIS while traveling with a brother and sister from Israel. The acting was almost soap operaish, but the action kept me intrigued. So much pain and violence ‘in the name of God’ would normally not interest me, but I had to see how it ended. It is one of the top five streaming shows on Netflix worldwide.

Bob interrupted this reverie one night to tell me we had to pick a paint color! It was time to pick the off-white wall color for our remodeled kitchen with dark blue cabinets. Do we want lavender or yellow undertones? Who knew there are a million off white colors, not to mention the pale grays. The Bride had turned me onto Havenly, https://havenly.com/ for some help, a website trying to democratize design. Their algorithm said my style was somewhere between Boho and Transitional.

I was wondering why my style wasn’t Scandinavian, when I returned reluctantly to reality and let Ms Bean out in the garden.

She jumped off the porch and right onto a possum! They tussled for a bit, then the possum ambled slowly under the house. I thanked Ms Bean for keeping us safe at her elderly age and went to charge my phone before bed. That was when I read about the synagogue in Texas.

My fictional Netflix evening about Middle East terrorism turned into a real time terrorist news event. A Palestinian was holding four people captive after shabbat services, including a rabbi, and demanding the release of his ‘sister’ who was serving 86 years nearby for shooting at soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. The terrorist was an Arab British citizen who had entered the US legally and then bought a gun, legally.

Needless to say, I was no longer sleepy. I forgot to mention that Bob had been running a fever and felt like he’d been hit by a truck. His rapid at home test was negative for Covid, but the Bride wanted us to drive through a Metro testing site to get a more reliable PCR done. We still didn’t know the result. But ever since the holidays, Bob has been so careful and deliberate, wearing an N95 if we venture into a grocery store, that I thought if HE can get this Omicron variant, we might as well all give up and toss our masks and cares to the wind.

This morning I’m grateful that all the Jewish hostages survived. But since the L’il Pumpkin will be joining his sister in Hebrew School this year, my gratitude in tinged with concern. Why are we still fighting over ancient, Biblical conflicts? Why have anti-Semitic attacks in the US reached a historic high in 2021?

Mehnaz Afridi:
I think for anyone antisemitism should be an important topic and subject. If it’s going on in Pakistan it should be important to someone living in Kansas City. We are a connected global community.

https://www.ushmm.org/antisemitism/what-is-antisemitism/antisemitism-today

Bob’s PCR is negative, YIPPEE, so we may venture out to a paint store for some samples. Wish us luck on our choice of “colours.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtJRJVdUFx4

Occupational Risk

I remember when Bob was in high school, he scored a summer job at our local munitions factory, ironically named Hercules Powder Company. The pay was ten times better than anything else around because it was considered “hazardous duty.” After all, make the wrong move and the whole place could blow up.

When we lived in the Berkshires, and the AIDs crisis hit, it occurred to me that he was also at risk when he went to work. If a nurse or tech could not find a vein in an HIV patient, they would fetch my husband. Needle sticks were a fairly common way healthcare workers contracted communicable diseases like hepatitis.

Today’s healthcare workers are at risk each and every day, but not from a Blood Born virus, from the Coronavirus. We all know how it’s transmitted. There are no mosquitoes or fleas or rodents involved, and sexual transmission was never an issue. No, this novel virus likes to just hang out in the air we breathe. And with this new Omicron variant, it’s absolutely everywhere.

I’m bringing this up in light of the latest stupid decision our right-leaning SCOTUS made yesterday – that the risk of contracting Covid is “not a work-related danger.” Therefore businesses (of 100 or more employees) do not have the right to require vaccinations for their employees… even though an individual could opt out by being masked and tested weekly. This decision affects 84 million workers.

“In the end, Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates stood or fell based on judicial interpretations of federal statute, not principles of individual liberty or appeals to the greater good. According to a majority of the Supreme Court, Mr Biden had the law on his side when ordering healthcare workers to get vaccinated, but using a 51-year-old workplace safety statute to implement a vaccine-or-test requirement on all large employers was a bridge too far.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59989476

So, the government can order vaccinations for government-funded healthcare workers, new armed forces recruits, and so far, for public schoolchildren, but not for private businesses. The reasoning?: “Although Covid-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.”

I disagree… IT’S IN THE AIR PEOPLE. It’s unavoidable – where ever you are – if you are a living breathing sentient being.. That’s why most of us have been limiting our indoor activities to a select few people, and not dining indoors, and not going to concerts or bars. If we venture into a Walgreens, we mask up!

Now this may be a jump too far, but I’m worried about how this thinking will play out when SCOTUS rules on the “All or Nothing” Mississippi abortion fight in the spring. One could argue that getting pregnant is an occupational risk if one is female. And pregnancy can indeed be hazardous – it can give you gestational diabetes, it can produce high blood pressure, anemia, pre-term labor, preeclampsia, infection, and like the Bride, you may end up needing surgery because the baby is upside down!

And surgery for a breech birth is not easy, let me tell you.

So I’m wondering how the government thinks that interfering with a woman’s Constitutional right to choose what she does with her own body is OK? Do you think it’s fine for old/White/mostly/male mostly Christian legislators to pass laws forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term, despite her wishes and her doctor’s recommendations? Isn’t this flying too close to a dystopian Margaret Atwood novel?

Let’s not forget, you can always leave your newborn at a firehouse.

In the middle of a two year pandemic, that has outwitted us largely because of the GOP’s strategy of misinformation and lies, our highest court has decided to bend to the pressure of big business. There was a time, early on, when the Groom’s ICU was filled with chicken factory workers. There was also a time when it was filled with pregnant women, who lost their much wanted babies.

If your work includes leaving your home to mix and mingle with co-workers, I’d argue that it is hazardous; whether it means in an office or on a factory floor.

I’m glad Bob has retired and doesn’t have to suit up in PPE just to see patients in an ER. The Bride is seeing so many people for stomach problems, bleeding and any random injury you could think of, and most are testing positive for Covid… as an aside, as an incremental finding. One of our friends was scheduled for knee replacement surgery, and her pre-operative blood work came back positive for Covid. She had no symptoms, but she was twice vaccinated and boosted.

Living can be risky. So be careful out there.

Keeping Calm and Carrying On

Snow Days

This week, Nashville finally succumbed to a real winter snowfall – over SIX inches! That’s like getting two feet of snow in the Berkshires, only there are not as many plows in the South. Also… maybe, there’s not enough salt in the South? So everything shut down for two days. Bob was walking around the house muttering, “I f-ing HATE the winter.” While I busied myself doing the usual – laundry, cooking comfort food, and painting.

I know, I know, I’m not the painter in the family. The Flapper, Aunt Kay and the Bride are the artistic ones. In high school, my daughter’s AP Art class was the highlight of her day. I’d never picked up a paintbrush because, why even try? Besides, I told myself I was painting a picture with words each time I sat down to write. But lately I’ve been feeling creative, and trying something new is good for your brain.

On the second snow day, we brushed the snow off our car, and found the main roads were mostly clear. There was simply NO traffic. According to Gmail, our new/old cottage had received a package, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t buried in the snow… or abducted by a porch pirate! Luckily our electrician was at the house and had brought the crystal chandelier inside. Tim is a man born and raised here, he loves the snow, and his Jeep. We discussed the placement of new canh lights and then headed straight to the Bride’s house.

The Groom was working from home, and my daughter was practicing yoga and baking bread! Where were the children? The house was eerily quiet. Turns out the Love Bug was sledding with friends, then suddenly the Pumpkin jumped into the room. We sat down for a heart to heart.

Me: Which do you like better, Zoom school or real school?

Pumpkin: Real school, of course.

Me: Is there anything you like about Zoom school?

Pumpkin: I can mute myself!

Ah yes, I bet we would all like to mute ourselves, or someone else from time to time. I’d like to mute my inner critic, the one who wants to know why I think I should be painting when the world is falling apart. The Ukraine is a powder keg, a cliff falls on tourists in boats in Brazil, and the Omicron variant has teamed up with Delta to create the DELTACRON in Cyprus. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/08/cyprus-reportedly-discovers-a-covid-variant-that-combines-omicron-and-delta.html

Today a petulant, unvaccinated tennis star is allowed to enter Australia.

Australia – the land where anyone who comes of age can vote; they don’t even have to register.… and if they choose NOT to vote, they must pay a fine.

But hey, the TN Titans are in the playoffs, and luckily the Grands’ school has resumed indoors for now. We should have sheetrock going up today, and thanks to a rainy weekend, the snow has disappeared. Anyone else counting their blessings today?

The Bride in the Berkshires

Look Up!

When I bought a chunk of land in Virginia, before Bob even got a chance to see it, friends thought I was crazy. But we’d been looking for a house for over a year and had finally decided to build our own Big/Little Home; so I trudged through a small forest at the edge of Albemarle County to see the Blue Ridge Mountains appear magically through the trees. I knew this was it. This was the place my dreams would come true.

When I brought Great Grandma Ada to see the 14 acres of wilderness her daughter-in-law had talked her son into buying, she kept looking down. She was picking up rocks and pointing out the flora. I had to coax her to look up and out at the mountains. She never really understood why we left NJ, and frankly I’m not sure either.

But with the grace of time, I realize now she was focused on the ground because she just didn’t want to fall. I look down a lot these days too.

Bob and I spent New Year’s Eve on the couch watching “Don’t Look Up!” on Netflix. I had no idea what it was about, and at first was pissed that Meryl Streep was smoking cigarettes as POTUS. I know she’s one of kind, but really? Slowly its true meaning became clear… the world is about to end, from (name your catastrophic event, a virus maybe, or climate change, or a meteor) and nobody cares. Politicians care about their polls, and the rest of us? We just ignore the inevitable and watch stupid animal videos. It’s an accurate allegory for our distracted, divided times.

“Two astronomers go on a media tour to warn humankind of a planet-killing comet hurtling toward Earth. The response from a distracted world: Meh.”

https://www.netflix.com/title/81252357

Now for the backstory. We’d just finished watching the Grands while the Bride and Groom went into battle every day at their hospitals in full PPE gear. Covid was back with a vengeance thanks to a surge of Omicron variant. Every night I watched as my daughter returned home, not to hugs and kisses, not before she showered and washed her hair. I could feel her pain, her exhaustion. I never saw the Groom, he was gone from 6 am to 9 at night, and then taking calls through the wee hours.

And I’d just finished reading Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny’s new book, “State of Terror.” It was their first collaboration and I hope it won’t be their last. Let’s just say the ex-president in State of Terror bears a striking resemblance to a certain twice-impeached Palm Beach resident. And yes, this book is fictional, but the geo-political thriller is a little too close for comfort. When I closed the final chapter, I couldn’t close my eyes.

We threw open our garden door on New Year’s Eve to hear country music float up from the Bicentennial Mall where the Nashville note would drop. People were standing shoulder to shoulder, unmasked, as if they were living in an alternate universe. Bars were open. A friend texted me – her hairdresser is moving to TN from NY, why? Because she wants to get away from Covid restrictions.

Needless to say, this was NOT an auspicious start to 2022. Comedians do riffs on toilet paper cozies and nobody seems to mind. Children have gone back to remote learning, leaving me to wonder how our mental health system will cope with these future teenagers. I’m thinking about strapping a sign board on myself with these words, “THE END IS NEAR” and walking down Broadway. Really.

Whatever you do, DO look up!

2021 in Selfies

A Dog Walk in January; My First Outing to a Store in February; Our March Vacation in Hawaii

Historic Nashville

In April We Begin the Search for a Home; First Time Dining Indoors in May; A Music Video in June

Kingmaker

Ada’s Cypress in July; We Fly to LA in August; Another Dog Walk in Historic Nashville for September

Great Grandma Ada’s Tree

October We Find a House; Boosted in November, Thank You Dolly Parton!; Another New Haircut Selfie in December! Happy and Healthy 2022, It’s Getting Better All the Time

2020 vs 2021 More Brow, Less Pink

Hiraeth

While Bob was gone fetching the Grands, my ears picked up a new word. Yesterday was Day Three of Grandparenting while my daughter works in her ER that is once again filled with Covid. Her shifts coincide with the Groom’s stretch of 24/7 Medical ICU coverage. Our system is that one of us drives to their house at daybreak, and returns mid-morning with the children and a certain puppy. Then the fun begins. We are committed to not making plans, and eating as much chocolate as we like.

But first, over coffee and the CBS Sunday Morning show, I heard a piece about the John Denver song, “Country Road.” The man who wrote the song was actually from Massachusetts, but he thought West Virginia fit the lyrics better. It starts out “Almost Heaven” and is universally loved because it’s about a longing for home, a kind of homesickness that is tinged with sadness – aka the Welsh word Hiraeth.

“One attempt to describe hiraeth in English says that it is “a longing to be where your spirit lives.” This description makes some sense out of the combination of words that describe this feeling. The place where your spirit feels most at home may be a physical location that you can return to at any time, or it may be more nostalgic of a home, not attached to a place, but a time from the past that you can only return to by revisiting old memories. Maybe your spirits home could even be neither of the above, one from which you are not only separated by space.”

https://www.felinfach.com/blogs/blog/hiraeth

There is no other word for Hiraeth in any language except ancient Cornish and Breton. It seems the Celts have a deep understanding of loss, one that transcends time. My immediate thought was that I’d like to be able to hug people again, to shake hands and maybe even give and get a peck on the cheek. I’d like to not wonder if I’ll need to wear a mask before I walk out the door. I’d like to return to a place where a virus wasn’t ruining running my life!

But just then the kids arrived. Could they check out the snack drawer? Who wants to play Mancala? And I swiftly returned to the present holiday/nana/camp routine. After all, we’d collected some fairy bark, moss and feathers and had to start building a fairy house. We even found a gold shell casing from a gun on our Christmas hike. I smiled when the Pumpkin turned it into a vase for some tiny flowers. He was enthralled with Bob’s Dremel tool as they carved notches into sticks.

The Bride’s hospital had so many nurses call out sick, with Covid, they had to merge the fast track into the main ER. The Groom’s ICU is expected to open another unit soon. When will the waves of illness and death stop? What will the next variant bring? I know which neighbor’s child is not vaccinated. We shake our heads and tell the Grands that some people just don’t believe in science. So we have to hang tight, to stay within our pod, again.

Today is Day Four. I don’t know how our “little doctors” (Ada’s term) do this, putting on their N95s and doing battle with a disease of the mind and body. Every day, without glory this time. No pans are banging on rooftops, no dinners are being delivered, not even on Christmas. Still, I believe we will return home someday and the secret route isn’t in memory. Hiraeth is a harmony of the soul and the spirit. Despite all the construction on our street, I can envision myself in our new/old house. We’ve already picked out the plumbing!

While the drum-up to Christmas and a New Year continues, I thought I’d share my thoughts on filling this school vacation with a little fun. Since the Bride always works on Christmas, and a few days after, and the Groom will be busy in the Medical ICU, Bob and I will be on deck with the Grands. We split our time with the other set of Grandparents who are arriving today.

At first I thought, ‘YAY, now that the children are vaccinated, we can go ice skating/movie watching/golf swinging!’ Or maybe even honky-tonking!

But then my better angel prevailed. I discovered an English website entirely devoted to folklore! And activities that include magic and fairies fall right within my wheelhouse! https://folklorethursday.com/childlore/top-10-fun-folklore-activities-children-grown-ups/

With that in mind, and some local lore thrown in, here are my top seven:

  1. Animal Stories. Look to Aesop’s Fables, or make up an animal story of your own. Get all comfy with some hot chocolate, and read aloud. Follow-up with questions and ask your children to draw the story. We plan on giving our Grands an animal to adopt at the Nashville Zoo, they get to read all about it, follow its adventures, and also receive a stuffed version of said animal. https://www.nashvillezoo.org/adopt
  2. Go For a Hike. You may remember that one year we made a fairy house with Great Grandma Ada. On this stroll, to a park or wilderness area, look for a fairy trail! A clearing with mushrooms (their chairs) may appear; collect feathers which are fairy brooms; and look for cobwebs. Did you know that fairies teach spiders how to sew them? I’ve been known to create dream catchers out of found feathers!
  3. Dig Into Hogwarts. Are your children into Harry Potter? Despite JK Rowlings recent controversy over LGBTQ rights, we plan on taking the kiddos to California next year to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Their Uncle and Aunt Kiki already have tickets so Omicron better be done. Did you know that the “…screaming mandrakes grown by students at Hogwarts are based on the real-life mandrake plant that has long been associated with medicinal magic?” 
  4. Baking. Create a tradition by baking something that is unique to your family. So not the usual Christmas cookies, unless you have a specialty of course. I have a plan to try baking the Flapper’s “Boiled Cake.” This is a recipe from the Great Depression when yeast, butter and flour were being rationed, so you can also throw in a little history lesson too.
  5. Take a Cruise on the Cumberland River. The showboat General Jackson has midday departures from the Grand Ole Opry to a round of applause! It may be a bit pricey, but the singing and dancing is everything FUN for ages 4 to 94! It’s a “…downhome showband of pickers, fiddlers, and singers will be performing heart-warming versions of Christmas favorites by Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Elvis Presley, Rascal Flatts, and more!”  https://generaljackson.com/
  6. Livestream a Magic Show. The Nashville Public Library has an amazing website called Kids Out and About with loads of free things to do with your children and grandchildren. Check out your library and sign up! On December 27 at 2 pm Eastern, WonderPhil will be presenting a magic show. Unfortunately it looks like it’s only through Facebook, but hey, maybe Facebook isn’t so evil after all? https://nashville.kidsoutandabout.com/content/livestream-magic-show
  7. Explain the Calendar. We gave our Littles calendars for one night of Chanukah this year – a Star Wars version for the Pumpkin and an origami desk calendar for the Bug. I heard that a certain little redhead wasn’t sure what it was, so now is a perfect time to dig deeper into customs that appear on calendars. For example, The Winter Solstice is happening tomorrow, that’s a good pagan way to start the day! And what exactly is Boxing Day?

So Merry Christmas to All and may your school vacation be filled with Joy and not too many action/adventure/activities this year. It’s best to relax and rest and keep a little of that lockdown mentality intact for everyone.

A Saintly Endeavor

My Catholic school background leaves me baffled.

Memories come and go, but feelings remain and for me, boredom was predominant. Memorizing prayers and counting bricks in the building across the street filled my days, punctuated by feelings of humiliation. Nuns stood guard over desks with arms folded under their cassocks. They were prepared to smack a ruler behind a girl’s knee for chewing gum, or pull the small hairs at the back of a boy’s head for launching paper airplanes. Once I had to stand in a corner, with my back to the class, for speaking to a boy.

It’s no wonder when the time came to pick out my very own saint’s name for Confirmation, I chose Dolores – Our Lady of Sorrows, patron saint of the suffering.

But this isn’t a story about me… This week Bob, my newly-discovered-retired MD-social butterfly, attended a ceremony outside Germantown’s Catholic Church to dedicate its newly restored steeple. The Assumption Church, built in 1845, was severely damaged during the March 2020 tornado; it lost many stained glass windows and roofs and needed major structural repairs. Since then, every time I drive by the church and the rectory, I’m struck by another glittery new copper gutter or roofline.

Finally the repairs have been completed! Rising many stories above the red brick, Southern Victorian homes of our neighborhood, the steeple was replaced to the sound of cheers and bagpipes. Most surprising to Bob, everybody got down on their knees in the street to pray!

“The steeple exists to point to God to remind us, you know, God is in his heavens. And then really the purpose of a steeple is to support a cross. And the cross now is going back up over Germantown and so that for us is very important.”

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/a-symbol-of-hope-nashville-catholic-church-restores-steeple-after-tornadoes

“Do you know anything about relics?” Bob asked me when he returned.

I tried to look knowledgable. “Sure,” I said. “It’s like a toenail of a saint.” Of course it might be a piece of cloth the saint actually wore too. Then Bob was happy to report that there is a third level of reliquary – something the saint touched!

“Like the bed Washington may have slept in?” I chimed.

It turns out that the cross that was hoisted above the church’s new steeple holds a First Class relic from St Roch! It’s a piece of his bone! Now if that didn’t get my old Catholic juices churning. I’d never heard of this Roch, and so some digging googling was required. Born in Montpelier, France (1348 – 1379), St Roch is the patron Saint of many things, but first and foremost it’s PLAGUES!!!

The story goes that he was born into money, the son of a governor, but set out for Rome as a poor confessor during an epidemic of the Bubonic Plague. Supposedly, he would make the sign of the cross over people suffering and they would miraculously recover. He survived the “Black Death” himself and went into prisons and public hospitals to minister to the sick; Roch was known to casually lift his pants leg up to show his scarred “buboes.” Which is why some of his statues look vaguely naughty…

And even though Roch is also the patron of dogs and Single Men, I refuse to think the worst! Just as we are ready to bid adieu to Covid, Omicron sweeps in during this festive season. Just as our children and Grands are being vaccinated, we are warned of a January surge in cases and deaths. I don’t know about you, but if praying to a piece of bone in a cross up the street might help end this pandemic, I’m all in.

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